Brunson Having Big Spring

Jalen Brunson has had to carry more of the load for the Mac Irvin Fire with players out from time to time, but if anything it's given him a chance to shine.

Lincolnshire Stevenson sophomore point guard Jalen Brunson has taken on a much bigger role this spring for the Mac Irvin Fire. With Jahlil Okafor sidelined for some time with an injury, Brunson stepped up and performed when expectations were high.

"It's really good," he said. "We started out great, and we're still struggling to get healthy, but we're trying to go with what we have and we're making it work so far."

Of course, the injuries and absences took a toll on the Fire at the Spiece Run N' Slam. With Okafor still sidelined and with big man Cliff Alexander at prom, Brunson knew that missing those two players would be costly. But one of the biggest competitors out there, Brunson just put his head down and carried on.

"It's a big deal," Brunson said. "Those are two of the best players in the country that aren't here with us, so we have to step up as a whole and I feel like we're doing that when we have our head in it."

With those two stars out, Brunson has to be a bigger part of the offense.

"I can really help with scoring and distributing," he said. "They trust me when I go to get my shots and that's really good."

But Brunson isn't automatically going to go out and shoot every time down the floor. As he proved this past season, he has the ability to be a complete point guard and a "floor general."

"I can do more than score the ball," he said. "I can be a true point guard and get my teammates the ball. We can get out and run."

Though he's just a sophomore, Brunson displays great poise and calmness when games hit crunch time. Much of that comes from lots and lots of preparation.

"The situations my coach and my dad prepare me for help me in my career now and help me for the future," he said, "I'm really trying to work every day and when the situation comes, I know what to do."

This offseason has been a time of improvement for Brunson, who has sharpened a lot of his already well-developed skills.

"I've been working more on my quickness and ball handling," he said. "I've also been working on defense and getting better defensively."

And with offers from Virginia, Purdue, Creighton, Tulsa, DePaul, Illinois, SMU, and Xavier, Brunson could easily get caught up in the process, but he's handling his recruitment already with a lot of maturity and patience.

"I'm glad and relieved that I have those offers right now but I'm just staying patient," Brunson said, "and everyone else is really supporting me. It'll come with time."

With AAU as his main focus, Brunson has put recruiting on the back burner for now. But once his season wraps up, he'll get back on the road and see a few schools.

"I haven't taken any visits this spring," he said. "I've just been playing basketball. Late in the summer or in early fall, I'll try to get some visits in."

And after that, he and his Stevenson team will look to build upon their state runner-up finish from last year, returning a majority of their experienced players. And with Brunson a year improved, he really feels like they can make another run.

"I think we can definitely challenge again," he said confidently. "We have four returning starters and we can't sit back and let it come to us. We have to go work hard and do what we did this year. Nothing is guaranteed, but we're ready to fight for it."

Illini Inquirer Top Stories